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Tuition to rise at least 5.6 percent

Group sends three proposals to Thorp

UNC’s tuition policy-making body approved three different increase recommendations Wednesday, each of which would raise undergraduate tuition by at least 5.6 percent, or about $250 for residents and $1,300 for non-residents.

The tuition and fee advisory task force failed to pick a single policy to recommend to Chancellor Holden Thorp, instead spreading their votes among three different choices, showing the difficulty in balancing quality of instruction with cost of attendance in an uncertain political atmosphere.

“I want us to be a low-tuition university,” said Board of Trustees member Sallie Shuping-Russell. “It’s very important to the tradition of the school. And I think for a lot of people in North Carolina, it’s still a very expensive school.”

Thorp will select a recommendation to present to UNC Board of Trustees next week. The increases will then have to receive approval from the UNC-system Board of Governors and the N.C. General Assembly.

The increases could change at any point in this process, as they did last summer when the legislature allowed schools to impose an additional $750 on top of already-approved rates to help offset cuts from the state.

Between 2004 and 2010, UNC increased non-resident undergraduate tuition by an average of $1,158 each year. Undergraduate resident tuition only rose for four of the six years, by an average of $227.

Student Body President Hogan Medlin advocated for a lower percentage increase of 5.6 percent, speaking out against consistently rising tuition.

“We’re also coming to the table recognizing that it’s an extreme year,” said Medlin, an in-state resident. “But jumping to the cap each year when things are strained is setting a precedent, and we’re concerned.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney, who plays a major role in University budget negotiations and is looking at the possibility of $54 million in cuts next year, emphasized that even the maximum of $15 million generated from tuition increases will not solve the school’s financial concerns.

“These are not going to be generating the kinds of revenue that will save us very much,” Carney said.

Carney spoke in favor of a 6.5 percent across-the board increase, the maximum currently allowed under the UNC-system policy.

The group also voted on a third proposal that would raise tuition at a lower rate for non-resident students in an attempt to keep their typically much higher costs more stable. Committee members were permitted to vote for several proposals, but Carney did not give his support for this plan.

Members worried about political feasibility of a plan perceived as preferential for non-residents.

“A lot of our colleagues think the university is here for in-state students,” Carney said.

Stephen Farmer, director of undergraduate admissions, said many out-of-state students will choose their own, cheaper public universities or private schools that offer more aid if the cost of attending UNC continues to rise.

“I do worry about this,” Farmer said at the meeting.

“Going up to the maximum increase for out-of-state students is compromising our competitiveness in ways that it didn’t five or six years ago.”

Thorp was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but told the Asheville Citizen-Times that a large tuition increase “is not a great idea, but it’s better than sacrificing the quality and reputation we’ve spent the past 250 years building.”

The state is expecting a budget shortfall of about $3.5 billion, and ?the University is anticipating a cut of 10 percent, or $54 million.

“There is no way under a 10 percent cut that we will not damage the instructional mission of the University,” Carney said. “The question will be where, and how deep.”

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